“To the Republic for which it stands“ This is my favorite phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance. I am often not proud of what the country is but I am proud of what it hopes to be. Its ideals are aspirational. When I see the flag I feel pride, shame and hope. Pride for the times we have lived up to our ideals, shame for the times we have not, and hope that even though the arch of history bends slowly, it bends toward justice.
I worry that sometimes we think love of country is enough–as if we can somehow overlook our need to understand and navigate deep, complicated issues with deep feelings of devotion. As if somehow our demonstrative examples of love of country justify our lack of daily civic engagement. We eulogize and memorialize the fallen soldier, as we should. However, that can be no excuse for not caring for the mentally and emotionally broken ones who live among us. We honor the pioneer of yesteryear, yet fail to give respect to the struggling working class of today. America is no stronger than the weakest among us. Love of country must also mean love of our fellow man.
I firmly believe that love of country can not be an excuse to absolve ourselves from our responsibility to country. Love of country should inspire us to be better, reach higher, love deeper and work with a unwavering zeal to be the city on a hill that 17th century colonist John Winthrop saw in vision—the nation Katherine Bates must have longed for when she penned these words:
Oh, beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
So this year as I attend parades, concerts and fireworks I am looking for comfort, hope, healing and inspiration as to what my part is in helping this great country live up to its ideals.
This is the second blog post I’ve written about controversial topics that I think really aren’t that controversial—we just aren’t listening to each other. You can find my first post on abortion here.
I think we can and should talk about controversial and complex issues in a way that we can see where we agree and come to terms with when we need to agree to disagree. I think the topic of guns and gun control offers that opportunity.
I really don’t think this topic is as controversial as it seems. I think it has become a proxy war for our tribalistic politics. I think there is much more common ground on the issue than it appears from what you see on social media after a high-profile shooting. After a day or so of solidarity and thoughts and prayers, each tribe takes to their corner, and at the sound of the bell, comes out swinging with their same tired, weak tropes.
The right says, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Regulating weapons will do absolutely nothing to stop crime. Criminals will get any kind of weapon, regulations do nothing to stop people from getting the type of weapons they want. Any talk of gun control is a slippery slope to a total gun take over. Everyone on the left wants to take every gun away from every American.”
The left says, “The NRA controls every Republican. Mass shooting are a constant threat to American life. Europe and Australia completely cured their gun problem. Common sense gun reform with stop all mass shootings.
As this Pew research shows, there are clearly areas where Republicans and Democrats disagree on the issue of guns and gun control. There are also areas of common ground. So why do we naturally default to pointing out where we disagree? Why isn’t our first reaction to talk about how we can reach out to legislatures on these common ground areas? I don’t believe any American really believes the second amendment was intended to have no limitations. Nor have I personally meet someone who thinks we can or should forcibly remove all guns from every citizen in the United States.
Nearly 3/5 of all gun deaths United States are suicide related. Is there really anybody who doesn’t think we could do more to reach out to people in crisis? As this excellent Vox video points out, the United States, does not have a gun problem, it has many gun problems. Not least of all is that we can’t even talk to each other about the issue. I don’t think anyone should feel like they should have all the answers, but I worry sometimes we don’t even ask genuine questions of each other. Questions that lead to understanding, even when, or especially when, we don’t agree with each other. Questions that lead us to common ground as opposed to questions that lead us to stand our ground. We should embrace the idea that our assumptions may be challenged, that our views may be inadequate or even wrong. The more we avoid trying to understand each other, the easier it is to dismiss one another, the easier it is to dehumanize one another. Dehumanizing one another may be the most dangerous weapon of all.
Wonderful to see my friends and associates coast to coast taking time to look to the heavens, if only for a few moments, forgetting their earthy troubles. Our lives were eclipsed by a celestial show powerful enough to help us take a break from our terrestrial worries. I completely missed any part of viewing the eclipse. I was in an office with my eyes dilated. Yet I was able to spend the day on social media watching the nation watch the sun and moon. One friend who lived In the direct path described it like a bonus Christmas with friends and family coming together to celebrate the solar star party. Other fiends wrote poetry, shared photos of family and friends (all those pictures of the glasses!). The best part of the day for our family was that our daughter got engaged! It was magical to see so many happy posts. I can’t imagine a time when we needed it more. The Washington post had a great piece about that yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s essential we spend time focusing on the troubles around us. I don’t think we should talk less about current events, world news, or the the politics of the day. I just think we should talk differently about them. We should try to find common ground with each other, rather than always assuming we have the higher ground. Yesterday was magical because we all looked up, looked up to something that transcends our daily chaos. We all live together here on this pale blue dot. Maybe yesterday’s celestial show can remind us how to live together.